StickerGiant Chats with Elise Blaha Cripe About Her Creative Ventures, and Her Goal Setting Tools Found in the Get To Work Book
In this Stickers on the Mic episode, Hamish chats with Elise Blaha Cripe out of San Diego, CA about how her creativity and DIY business style grew into the Get To Work Book helping people set and achieve goals, and other inpsirational products to keep creativity flowing.
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[00:00:08] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic Podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com, where we talk with our customers about how they started their business, how they're marketing their brand, and how they're growing their company. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thank you for your continued support.
Without further ado, it's time for the Stickers on the Mic podcast from StickerGiant. Let's get on with the show.
[00:00:53] Hamish Martin: Hello, and welcome back to the Stickers on the Mic Podcast. Hamish here, I'll be your host for this episode. Joining me today is Elise Blaha Cripe. She's an entrepreneur, passionate crafter, blogger, author, and she hosts her own podcast, Elise Gets Crafty, just to name a few of her talents and achievements. Elise, welcome to the show and thank you very much for joining us.
[00:01:14] Elise Blaha Cripe: Thank you. It's an honor to be here.
[00:01:16] Hamish: I honestly had a little trouble writing your introduction because you do such a wide array of things. I'm really excited to get into the details and hear your side of the story. Maybe you could kick stuff off and tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
[00:01:31] Elise: Yes, definitely. I went to college for business. I was a business administration major with an emphasis in marketing. Early in my college career, I think I was a sophomore, I took a class and we had to create a blog as part of that class. We wrote a few blog posts for the semester, and I guess the teacher read them and graded us. I don't remember it too well.
Around that time, this was 2011. Actually, sorry, this was 2004. Blogs were kind of, as far as I knew, just getting started. I was reading a ton of blogs, and then in 2005, I decided to start my own. At the time, we didn't have this word, but I guess now you would describe it as like a lifestyle blog.
In that, I was just sharing about my life. Sharing what I was working on, internships, anything. It was very casual as a lot of blogs were back then. That sort of snowballed and evolved. I graduated from college. I went to work at a paper store in Washington, DC. That's where crafting became my job. I learned a lot from that and I started making paper products like little books and cards to sell online. I had an Etsy shop. Then that just snowballed.
For over a decade now, I've been working for myself and figuring things out. My main business today is called Get To Work Book. It's a planner and a bunch of different goal setting tools. Even though I wear a lot of hats, that's the main business that I run right now.
[00:03:06] Hamish: Yes. It's interesting to hear. When you started blogging, it's kind of pre-social media. I'd be interested to hear what you think about how that's changed and that transition from maybe doing just blogs and now, using social media with your own business and that being the main publishing tool for people.
[00:03:26] Elise: Yes, great question. I think that back then, it definitely felt smaller. The Internet, it was smaller. It was harder to post. It definitely wasn't as instant in the same way. We didn't have cameras on our phones the same way. I had a flip phone. I would take pictures on my digital camera, I would upload them, I would edit them. Edit, I mean resize, and then I would post to the Internet. It was much more of a process. It didn't have that kind of instant, "Here's where I am. This is what I'm doing," way that the Internet seems to have now which I think is good and bad.
It was harder to get your message out there because you were just sharing. You were literally posting, and then there wasn't really a place to go and say, "Hey, here's what I just posted." A lot of how people found you was through word of mouth, like, "Oh, hey, I read this blog." A lot of blogs back then had a sidebar that had links to all the blogs that they read. I remember you would hop from one to the other. You scroll then you pick one. You read that post and you go to that person's blog. It was very different. I don't think it had the same community that we have right now. There wasn't as quick back and forth with the comments. It was different. I think it was harder, but in some ways, it was quaint.
[00:04:47] Hamish: Yes. Maybe sort of harder to post and get stuff out there, but even with maybe the noise today, people can find it quite difficult. Now, so many people are doing it now, I suppose, which might make that more difficult now, but I totally understand the effort you had to go in into just publishing a piece of content, it was much more involved. I'd love to talk just a little bit about your crafting and being a maker because I think that's really relevant to what we do as a business, working with so many people making products and stuff like that. You are you making your own products and selling them until quite recently, correct?
[00:05:23] Elise: Yes, definitely. Up until Get To Work Book, I launched that in 2015. Up until that, I was making everything myself, for the most part. For a while, I made- I knitted blankets, I hand-stained a bunch of wood ampersands. It was more involved DIY, which I love. The maker term is something I've really embraced. I still make a lot, it's just now, it's more on a smaller scale for myself. I'm not making as much to sell. My books are printed up in Portland, Oregon actually. They're printed up there and they're shipped down to me, and then I send them out from here.
[00:06:05] Hamish: Cool. For our crafters out there maybe who are trying to make stuff for their stores, do you have any advice? How are you selling it? How are you getting it out there in front of people?
[00:06:18] Elise: The two things that helped me the most that I feel like helped bring me from more hobbyist to someone who was making more money was batch creating. That was the first thing. The second thing was making sure I was wholesaling or purchasing wholesale my raw ingredients. Those are two things that are that-- Especially the wholesale, I think it can seem really intimidating when you first getting started. You're used to going to an art store or going to a craft store or going to Amazon and buying whatever it is, your pack of 100 paper.
Your next step, and I think what can really make a difference is when you get a reseller's license, and you're able to go directly to those brands and say, "Hey, I need 100." You can get them at a slightly smaller price, which then helps you raise your margins and have a little bit more income coming in, and then yes, as much batching as you can do. If you can cut everything, and then punch everything or whatever you're doing, those are the types of things that are going to help and allow you to scale a bit better.
[00:07:18] Hamish: Yes, that makes total sense. The two can go hand-in-hand. You buy more materials and therefore, you do bigger batches and you batch your work quite together. I can see how those two combined to make things more economical from a production standpoint. Were you using social media at all to sell your products?
[00:07:39] Elise: I think in the beginning, I remember being on Twitter. Now, my main social media feed and what I use all the time is Instagram. That's become my biggest promotional tool, especially for Get To Work Book. Pinterest is still helpful, not in the sense that I'm posting my own things and people are seeing those and repinning them, but anytime, of course, when someone goes to search for a certain product, your pin can come up, that's so helpful.
I actually don't use Facebook very much, which is weird. Of course, you need to be on Facebook and active on there, but it's not-- I don't use it as much as a user. As a creator, it's harder for me to get into it. It's mostly just Instagram.
[00:08:24] Hamish: Yes, I think stick to what you know, and I guess what you like. Did you ever use Facebook or is that just something that was never a big part of your promotion?
[00:08:34] Elise: Facebook came out when I was in college. In 2005 or in 2006, when it came out, I was using Facebook because Facebook kind of went from college to college and they opened it up, and then they opened it up to high school, and then they opened up to everyone. When I was in college, I used Facebook, and then it grew into the only thing that's out there. I just stayed it off. I missed the boat. I wasn't interested in it anymore.
[00:08:58] Hamish: Yes, I guess I asked that question because I know organic reach, something that kind of pops up a lot in terms of social media. Facebook's making it really hard if you're not spending money to be visible on there. I think to your point about Instagram, I think you still have that on Instagram where you can put stuff out and people that follow you can actually see it. I can see why it's really tricky especially for small businesses on Facebook because it's a pay-to-play world right now.
[00:09:28] Elise: Yes. I liked your point. You don't have to do all the things. It's impossible to give 100% to 15 different social media apps. Pick the one that you're going to be really into and active on, and then just go deep into that one.
[00:09:43] Hamish: Yes, I think definitely pick the one where your followers and your fans and stuff are. It's no good being on Facebook if none of your customers are on Facebook. You're just spending time on something that's not bringing you any value.
Let's talk a little bit more about the Get To Work Book, your main venture right now. How did that get started?
[00:10:06] Elise: Yes. I had the opportunity to speak at an event called the World Domination Summit in the summer of 2014. At that event, I talked about making bold statements and setting goals and sharing your goals out loud. I talked for 25 minutes and just explained my concept of big ideas and then making them happen. After that event, I was like, "Okay." It connected with people. I was very passionate about it. I thought like, "What can I do with this idea?"
That's where the plan for the planner came. Get to Work Book is a planner that has weekly spreads. It's your traditional- there's also calendar pages, and then there's some goal-setting features. That was the initial product and I launched in March 2015. Then from Get to Work Book based on listening to my customers and seeing what works and what wasn't for people, I’ve spun off to different products. Now, I sell notepads and notebooks and a lot of different products related to that but the umbrella is the planner.
[00:11:12] Hamish: The motivational and productivity themes, what sparked that catalyst? I know you spoke at the event. How did you get to speaking it? A 25-minute talk's a pretty big deal. It's quite a big thing to do for your first attempt into that kind of world.
[00:11:30] Elise: Yes, it was super scary. The guy who hosted is Chris Guillebeau. He had stumbled on my blog and was-- He doesn't do any of the crafting that I do. He was inspired by this idea that I was just passionately putting forward my ideas over and over and over again. That's what I always tell people who are getting started is it's just you have to share what you're doing. You have to share everything that you're doing as much as possible and put it out there and not be afraid that it's going to be perfect or ready but just keep creating the content that's exciting to you.
[00:12:06] Hamish: Yes, I think that's great. That's, I guess, gives you an authentic feel as well. It's not like, "Oh, let me put out this perfect finished product." It's like, "No, this is me every single day just trying to get stuff done."
[00:12:16] Elise: Exactly, yes.
[00:12:18] Hamish: In terms of going from making your own products to presumably using a manufacturer and transitioning to that, how is that? Can you explain a little more in those details because I'm sure there's some of our listeners out there who might be in a similar position, trying to expand their business?
[00:12:36] Elise: Yes, definitely. It was two ways. On the one hand, the benefit of making stuff myself is I had a good understanding of how to create something and sell it online and then ship it once it's sold. The basics were there. I hired a designer to design, the Get to Work products or design team, a couple of people. That was scary because it was expensive. I knew that I wanted the book to be really professional and higher than what I could do. I wanted it to be a level above my design capabilities.
I knew that that was necessary. Then the production was scary because it was a lot of money. Anytime that you're having someone create it for you, more than likely, you're putting in a large order, you're ordering a lot of product. There's just a lot of overwhelm there. I think that's very normal. I think that a lot of times when you're a small business and you're making that jump, you're waiting for it not to feel scary, and it's just going to feel scary. It's always going to be scary to make the transition. It's a calculated risk.
I thought about how many was I going to order, I thought about what was I going to charge, how many would I have to sell to just break even. I ran all of those numbers. I got to a point where I knew that I wasn't going to go bankrupt if this didn't work, and so it felt like worth taking the risk.
[00:13:59] Hamish: I think that's exactly right. Just proper preparation, run your numbers, and test the waters. I think like you said, you already had a really good foundation of what works, how to sell. Your audience was already there. I think that's a good tip for people. You can start small and if starting small means making your own stuff then make your own stuff and sell it that way. Then manufacturers and distributors maybe come a little bit later. Does anybody help you with running that business or you doing that all by yourself?
[00:14:30] Elise: Right now, it's still just me. I have a warehouse actually here in San Diego because the business grew out of my garage. Right now, it's still me that ships all the products because I like it. I like to be the person that handles the customer service and then gets orders out the door. Yes, still just me.
[00:14:50] Hamish: That's cool. I guess you might maybe get to put a little extra effort into your packaging and stuff like that and you personalize the experience. I bet that's part of it.
[00:14:58] Elise: Yes, that's a huge-- I am speaking of stickers. A big part about when you get the package, I want there to be all these branded pieces inside that make it feel more special. My goal was like all of my business card and my thank you cards and everything on the products, I want you to save it. I want you to think it looks good and want to hang it on your wall. It's not just a receipt, it's like a little piece of art.
[00:15:22] Hamish: Actually, it's a great transition into stickers because I think what you're doing is such a good idea. For all our listeners out there, it's a sticker that has a coupon code on which you can use for next year. Obviously, you got to buy a planner once a year. That's just a great way giving somebody something they can actually stick in the planner and remember that coupon code so they don't lose it and then buy next year, I think such a good way to re-engage with people.
[00:15:48] Elise: Yes, it's like that exactly when you go to the dentist and they give you that little sticker. It says like, "Your next appointment is blank." That's totally what I modeled it off of. I use your guys' stickers as well just on my packaging. On the outside of the package, there's a sticker. It's like a little paragraph but it's like, "This is for the list-makers, the goal-setters, the dreamers," blah blah blah. That's a fun one too. I've also sent your stickers as product, as free gift, you know, like actual stickers that aren't stuck yet so people can use them too
[00:16:17] Hamish: Yes, definitely. I think free stickers in boxes is such an important thing. I look for it every time I buy stuff from brands. I'm like, I find the stickers in the box, slap them on my cooler or something like that. Not just because I work in a sticker factory, but also because I think it's cool. I like the way you combined your inspirational messaging on your sticker, which is something else you do with the kind of organization. That was pretty cool to tie those two things together.
[00:16:44] Elise: Thank you.
[00:16:47] Hamish: Other things as well. You have a podcast. How does that tie into the whole mix and when did you start doing that?
[00:16:55] Elise: I started my podcast in 2014, the spring of 2014. This was like pre-Serial. This is before podcasts exploded. I wanted a different way to talk and share ideas and as of course you know, talking is so different than writing and you can communicate differently. A podcast is something that people can pop on when they're driving or walking. It's another way to get their attention. That was a fun- it felt like a fun venture at the time. I've been able to interview 100 people about their small businesses and creativity and goal-setting and all of the things I like to talk about.
That's been great too. If you ever want to just talk to cool people and start a podcast, that's a good way to get them to chat for half an hour.
[00:17:42] Hamish: Yes, exactly. I know we've had a ton of fun speaking to people like yourself, and actually, hearing from customers and hopefully providing a service to other people out there. I think there's a whole host of information you can get out there in podcasts so it's cool to see somebody actually doing something similar to us. We're a business marketing and growth podcast and you're a creativity and small business. I think there's a lot of parallels there. It's fun to obviously have you on today and talk about that a little bit as well.
[00:18:13] Elise: Cool.
[00:18:14] Hamish: Recently, you're becoming an author. You've got some books as well that are on the website, as kind of, you know, supplemental product to your planner. Let's talk about that because I know the motivational theme continues there.
[00:18:27] Elise: Definitely. I self-published a book in 2016. It's called 100 Pep Talks. I did what's called the 100 day project, which is an awesome-- For people listening, it's like an awesome creative challenge that's public. Tons of people do it, usually runs from April until July every year. Every day for 100 days, you do something creative. People make little paintings or they watercolor, sculpture, whatever.
I decided to write a pep talk every day for 100 days. At the end of the project, again, 2016, I turned them into a book. I self-published this book. That's what's currently sold. Then in October, I have a book coming out with Chronicle Books. That's called Big Dreams, Daily Joys. That's like a goal-setting guidebook. It's not a planner, it's not a journal. You can't or you can, but you're not supposed to really write in it. Instead, it's just sharing my philosophy and ideas for motivation and then productivity and getting things done.
[00:19:29] Hamish: Cool. Can you speak more to those philosophies and ideas? Let's hear them. I'm sure there's some great advice for people in there.
[00:19:37] Elise: Yes, definitely. A lot of what I preach with Get To Work Book is this idea that big things happen one day at a time. It's this idea, my general idea is, you have something that you want to work on. The best thing you can do, the number one thing you need to do about that is write that down, and then think okay, when do you want to accomplish whatever goal you have? In a year? Great.
A big part of how you're going to get to reaching that goal in a year is by consistent check ins. It's by knowing what your goal is and then two weeks from now sitting down and checking in, where are you at, what's working, what do you need to do, and then picking specific action items. What is something that you can do today for this goal that you want to accomplish in a year?
A lot of times, the action items are really small. They're minor things. You want to start a podcast. Today's thing that you're going to do is you're going to come up with a name or you're going to Google [chuckles] whichever podcast system you're going to use to upload your thing. They're usually such small steps and a lot of times, we just get overwhelmed by all these steps. My whole thing is to just focus on that one thing at a time. I mean, that's one [chuckles] of the things I talk about in the book and a lot of it is just how to stay on track and keep moving forward.
[00:20:57] Hamish: It makes perfect sense. We used something similar as a business-- The business model is called traction, but it's all worked back. There's a 1-year goal, there's a 3-year goal, there's a 10-year goal and then once you've set your goals, which is a little bit of your-- It's your ambition. Maybe you can get it done in the year. Maybe you can't, but you've got to set it regardless and then even if maybe that goal takes longer than a year, you've still broken down the steps into, "I'm going to do this in these three months and then this quarter," that kind of thing.
Aside obviously from your planners, do you have any tools and stuff like that, maybe apps, programs that you use to help organize?
[00:21:40] Elise: Yes, I don't. I'm really a paper planner person. It's not because I'm crazy loyal to my products. It's because, for me, that's the best way. For me, writing it down and seeing it physically is the best thing to do. I use a lot of different tools for my business. I would highly recommend ShipRobot, if people out there are shipping products, it's great. Takes all my orders, puts them all in, prints out all my labels and allows me to do a lot of batch shipping, which is awesome.
That's an online app that I use consistently as a small business owner. Then otherwise Gmail, keeping things organized, Google Docs, [chuckles] a lot of the normal free stuff I take a lot of advantage of.
[00:22:22] Hamish: Big fans of Google over here. I'm like, get your Google Calendar synced up, then you've got your spreadsheets, your documents. It's all in there, pings the notifications, it's great. I agree with you. I like paper as well. I think we have a lot of tools that we use as a business because when you're working with cross-functional teams, you need a digital record and you need to be able to ping people and assign people tasks and stuff like that. When it comes to breaking out my day and what I'm doing, I need to write it down. It helps me visualize and I think do what works for you. You don't need to jump in with the tech just because everybody's telling you that technology is going to solve all your problems.
[00:23:01] Hamish: I think the final thing at least that I picked up from your website is your Creative Kids e-courses. That was something that looks really interesting. What can you tell us about that?
[00:23:13] Elise: I have two daughters and they are six and three and a half. Since my older daughter was six months old, I have been making stuff with her. I had her paint our little Thanksgiving place cards when we had our family over. I love creativity. I'm a maker as we've discussed at length. Getting my girls involved has always been really fun and exciting for me, but as I've shared that on my blog or on Instagram, I always get a lot of like, "Oh, I wish I was creative with my kids, but it seems like such a mess," or "Oh, I wish I was more comfortable with getting out the paint," or something.
I wrote this e-course for parents who want to be creative with their kids and want to encourage creativity and art and learning with their children. It's been really fun. Creating all the projects and working with my daughters to make it was awesome and it's easy. You can just read it or you can refer back to it whenever you need, but it’s a good book.
[00:24:09] Hamish: That's really cool. I can totally understand how a lot of people might struggle with that if you're not a naturally creative person, but you want to help your kids and stuff like that. It's like, "Oh, what do I do? I'm stuck here. I'm not an artist." [chuckles]
[00:24:22] Elise: For sure. It feels like such a mess and something I've learned is once you get into it, your kids get better at it. I don't mean they become better artists. I mean, they get better at spending time painting or spending time drawing and suddenly, these three-minute messy art projects can last hours, which is amazing and the goal.
[00:24:45] Hamish: I know we see a lot of stickers around kids based stuff, like some great sticker sheets that are all clearly aimed at kids learning and stuff like that. I think there's tons of ways you can be creative and stuff like that. It's cool to see brands getting into that as well and using stuff like stickers to help with the learning.
[00:25:04] Elise: Yes, for sure.
[00:25:05] Hamish: What's next for you? Obviously, the planners are going really well and the books coming out in October. Anything else on the horizon?
[00:25:14] Elise: Yes, those are my main two. Making sure I sell planners. [chuckles] I do two planners a year. Right now, I have the July, June out and then shortly, I'll have the 2020, which is crazy. I'll have that planner up for sale. Pushing my book, I'm [chuckles] trying to get people to buy that. Those are my main things right now and then after that launches, we'll have to touch back in late October and I'll tell you what I'm going to work on. I don't know yet.
[00:25:39] Hamish: Do you change the planners much year by year, you change out the themes and stuff like that?
[00:25:43] Elise: The general look and feel is always the same. It's very consistent, but each month, there's a motivational text illustration. They are really cool. They've become little artworks on their own, and so those change and so every year, there's 12 new illustrated prints in each book. That changes, but the normal spreads all stay the same for people.
[00:26:05] Hamish: I guess people when they find a planner, they actually probably want some consistency. Is that your illustrations that you're putting in there?
[00:26:12] Elise: No. I work with an awesome team up in Portland, Jolby & Friends and they do the illustrations. I come up with the phrases and I give them like, "Here's what I'm thinking." We're on year five now. They're in my head and I'm in theirs. There's very little revisions or changes because now, we all have the feel. It's really fun.
[00:26:32] Hamish: That's really good when you've got a designer who you can just be like, "This is what I'm thinking." They come up and you're like, "Nailed it."
[00:26:41] Elise: There's no revisions anymore compared to when we started.
[00:26:44] Hamish: It sounds like with you and your team, you've got stuff pretty worked out with the planners.
[00:26:48] Elise: Yes, so far. [chuckles]
[00:26:51] Hamish: We're coming to the end of our time. Where can people find you obviously if they want to check out things?
[00:26:57] Elise: For sure. My home base on the Internet is elisejoy.com. If you go there, you can find- I don't update my blog as much anymore, but you can find a link to 12 years of archives and then the planner is sold at gettoworkbook.com and everything we talked about is there. I'm @elisejoy on Instagram and I share there most frequently.
[00:27:17] Hamish: That's great. Be sure to go check out her website and all her products. There's some really cool stuff on there. Thank you very much for tuning in and remember every sticker has a story. What's yours?
[00:27:33] Announcer: That wraps up this episode of Stickers on the Mic, brought to you by stickergiant.com. You can download us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcatcher. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review. It helps us reach new listeners and share our customers' stickers stories and if you're inspired to create your own stickers or labels, head over to stickergiant.com to check out our options.
Thanks again for listening to Stickers on the Mic.
[00:28:07] [END OF AUDIO]
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